Traces of Secret War

When I read some of this stuff, I wind up sitting and scratching my head, missing my lead foil-lined hat. Conspiracy theorists and fake news make it hard to know what’s what, sometimes, and you can’t tell if you’re looking at a story or disinformation to create a story. Or, are you looking at disinformation intended to obscure a story?

The news piece I remember from a while back was about US jets, including F-22s, scrambling to intercept a possible attack on US-backed rebel troops in Syria. That sounds plausible:

U.S. and Russian fighter jets bloodlessly tangled in the air over Syria on June 16 as the American pilots tried and failed to stop the Russians from bombing U.S.-backed rebels in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.

The aerial close encounter underscores just how chaotic Syria’s skies have become as Russia and the U.S.-led coalition work at cross-purposes, each dropping bombs in support of separate factions in the five-year-old civil war. [dailybeast]

Sounds plausible and a bit scary. Presumably this is all reported through some kind of official channel, because nobody is out there tracking F-22s. When I read that the first time I mentally constructed a scenario that looked something like Russians getting ready to bomb a bunch of “anti-regime rebels” suddenly getting a load in their pants when F-22 stealth fighters came blazing in out of nowhere, conclusively showing them that they’d have been lunchmeat if the F-22s were hostile, and encouraging them to follow the path of good behavior.

30-40 miles west of At Tanf, Syria, is a whole lot of nothing much


Department officials expressed strong concerns about the attack on the coalition-supported counter-ISIL forces at the At-Tanf garrison, which included forces that are participants in the cessation of hostilities in Syria, and emphasized that those concerns would be addressed through ongoing diplomatic discussions on the cessation of hostilities. Regarding safety, department officials conveyed that Russia’s continued strikes at At-Tanf, even after U.S. attempts to inform Russian forces through proper channels of on-going coalition air support to the counter-ISIL forces, created safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces. [dod]

As I’ve mentioned, I like googling for stuff. I was thinking “wonder if At Tanf looks interesting.” Usually if you search around a bit you’ll find tidbits like “a garrison 20 miles west of At Tanf” or whatever. Other times you get a map, that you can then puzzle out using features like the highway that goes southeast to northwest and forks at the northwest end.

Google Maps says it’s “Palmyra, Syria” so maybe this is part of the holding force that’s trying to keep ISIS away from the ancient city. But, nope: it’s 70 miles south of Palmyra and 80 miles east of Damascus. Maybe that’s the base.

It sure looks well laid-out for an insurgent base, doesn’t it? The Mail’s report is that it is yet another secret American base where boots don’t touch the ground:

Russia bombed a secret military base in Syria used by American and British forces, it has been reported.
Vladimir Putin’s warplanes allegedly struck a remote garrison at At-Tanf, an outpost for elite forces from both sides of the Atlantic on June 16.
US jets are believed to have been scrambled in response, but failed to stop the aerial raid.  [mail]

The story about US jets being scrambled sounds about right. The date and location are the same. The story is very different, and it sure makes me wonder if more was going on when the US struck the Syrian air base than the ignorant population of the US was told.

There was also a similar attack on a CIA-linked site on July 12 that was previously unreported. 

So, when you google for “Lions of the East Family Camp” then there’s all kinds of reporting about that incident. Originally in the Wall St Journal, but since it’s behind a paywall:

No U.S. troops were at the sites at the time of the attacks, but a detachment of British forces had departed from the garrison shortly before the bombing. U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the strikes were part of a Russian campaign to pressure the United States to cooperate more closely on airstrikes. [fp]

The US government, DoD, and CIA (which appear to all be, collectively “The US Government”) are not being honest about the degree to which the US military is involved in combat operations in Syria. It’s not just the “boots on the ground” lie – the US appears to have invaded in summer of 2016 and built a forward air base in the northeastern spur of Kurdish Syria, as well as multiple bases for ground troops elsewhere. That’s not to mention the US Marines committed to Manbij. It’s as if there’s a deeper covert war going on between the US and Russia trying to bomb each others’ secret bases covertly under cover of anti-rebel or pro-rebel operations – a classified and potentially deadly tit-for-tat – “friendly fire” as blood sport.

There are no just wars; there are just wars.

------ divider ------

This is Vietnam 3.0 (if Afghanistan was Vietnam 2.0) – exactly what the War Powers Resolution was about preventing. Congress is supposed to control where the country deploys military force. But they didn’t, because Obama was Their Guy. And now that Trump is in charge, the Democrats can’t complain because they didn’t complain when Obama did it, and Republicans won’t complain because Trump is Their Guy.


  1. Brian English says

    Marcus, what you write is credible to my ignorant self.
    A question, is the F22 really stealthy and lethal? I gathered that basically it was a hangar kind of plane, that did a magnitude more hours of maintanence than flight and was too expensive to risk in a lethal situation. I may have gathered that from you, not the Jamie Foxx movie. Why wouldn’t they send in B1s if they wanted to risk a billion dollars? But still, much better than the F35 which my government wants more than a dog wants to sniff another dog’s…
    Drones is the future. They’re the technological equivalent of the pleb who’ll die for the cause, except they carry deathtastic missiles….

  2. says

    Brian English@#1:
    A question, is the F22 really stealthy and lethal? I gathered that basically it was a hangar kind of plane, that did a magnitude more hours of maintanence than flight and was too expensive to risk in a lethal situation. I may have gathered that from you, not the Jamie Foxx movie.

    You may have gotten that from me. My understanding is that the F-22 is a very very good plane when it’s working. Other than that it’s high maintenance and was late and over-budget.

    I actually was a bit sniffy when they deployed F-22s to do strikes in Syria, because they’re so expensive and losing one would be a huge P.R. disaster. But if they’re not dealing with Syria’s more or less nonexistent air defenses or air force, then maybe they’re down there specifically to counterbalance the Russians. That would actually make some sense.

    Another thing that actually makes some sense is the stories about the secret air base in NE Syria. If they were scrambling F-22s and attempting to intercept Russian airstrikes on secret bases, then the F-22s would want to be forward-deployed to someplace nearer, and not taking off from Incirlik.

    It’s beginning to sound like there are a lot of boots on the ground.

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    Just a general point: don’t ever trust a Daily Mail story or link. DM is 90% fiction, and the rest is lies. Even when they’re right, they’re wrong.

  4. says

    Just a general point: don’t ever trust a Daily Mail story or link

    The original fake news, eh?

    I am usually really careful about my sources and multi-source everything (which doesn’t mean much now that the liars multi-spam their lies) I believe this was also covered in the Wall St Journal, but that article was behind a paywall. Usually what I do in that case is link something that’s not behind a paywall and (if I can) access the paywalled version.

  5. EigenSprocketUK says

    Fair enough, though it galls me to send any clicks in the direction of the DM. Perhaps in this case it was not fiction after all; it was just mendaciously spun partisan hackery.
    I have no proof of this save the fact that the DM wrote it and printed it.